Bundle Deal: How narratives around the absence of race in Latin American countries protects White supremacy.

Creative Reaction Lab
Equal Space
Published in
5 min readDec 9, 2020

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// Nora Garcia (she/her/hers), 2020 Seeds of Power Fellow

Fingers claw into the side of my phone as I make sense of the words spoken before me.

“I’m sorry, do you mind elaborating?” I ask, looking for a way to rectify my emotions — my anger.

See, until now, playful banter had ensued — all of which had brought forth smiles and nods — so when the conversation took an unusual turn, my mind couldn’t help but stumble. Did she say what I think she said? The question replays over and over, as I wait for a response.

“I just hate going through that neighborhood because everyone is Mexican and only speaks Spanish.” She says, confirming my suspicions.

Anger travels and captures, but I remain firm in place — unable to digest the emotions rupturing inside. While, statements dash and create ropes within but none escape the corners of my lips, the pain holding my tongue hostage.

Maybe, you heard it wrong, I try to console myself.

Maybe, you’re on a show and any minute now the cameras will appear, letting you know it’s all a game, a very twisted one, but a game nonetheless.

None occur, but regret caresses the corners of her face, letting me know her words weren’t a figment of my imagination nor joke but real, very, very real…

“You’re not Mexican, are you?” She forces a small smile onto her face.

Silence continues to dominate my being while I unpack the statement, making the formulation of words nearly impossible. Bodies shift around anxiously, looking for a way out of this conversation, emulating my own feelings about the interaction and when enough silence has passed, eyes travel and land in my direction — waiting for the green light to resume their less “intense” conversation.

“No.” Finally a word forms and melts sharply off my lips, mirroring the irritation caged inside. What if I was? What difference would it make? Would you have found a way to apologize or instead given more reasons as to why your prejudiced beliefs should be accepted? Thoughts infiltrate.

Two columns manifest within, ready to let her know that:

1. Spanish isn’t the only language spoken in Mexico let alone in Latin America, but a mere fragment of the country’s identity and thus shouldn’t be used interchangeably to describe everyone #ethnicity isn’t race

2. A majority of Latinx individuals are of African Descent that might be much closer to her, had the settlers decided to change the course of their routes.

Don’t. Unless you’re ready to go into an emotional battle over the difference between Race & Ethnicity and the various identities that encompass these countries, thirty-three total, Don’t. My inner voice says and instead of going to battle over her statement, I turn my attention to the glowing light before me as my phone receives an incoming message.

That fateful day has plagued my mind continuously, the scene replaying over and over again with thoughts of the narrative that takes precedence when it comes to Latinidad in the United States, often equivalent to a bundle deal: language, customs, struggles, experiences and race all for the price of one.

A narrative that is very much incorrect but has had the power to dictate the way I’ve viewed myself and those around me.

A narrative that not only shows itself in communities differing from my own, like the one illustrated above, but shapeshifts and manifests itself within the Latinx community.

A narrative that sugarcoats oppression by describing our reality as “equal”.

A narrative that for twenty years resulted in my inability to see the prejudice and racism held by members of my community because somehow I was led to believe we were all the same.

Tu eres una mulata de salir.” (You are a mulatto worth being accepted). “No atraces la raza,” (Don’t regress the race), were statements I heard numerous times growing up, when Black Latinos with internalized racism and White Latino’s would analyze the goldish-brown of my skin, the fullness of my lips, and the curls on my scalp. These comments, however, failed to acknowledge the part of me that was gifted from my non-white ancestors; the color that transcended from my Afro Cuban father and features from my Haitian maternal great-grandmother. Instead, a cloak of invisibility was created — where race was non-existent — and began to chip away at me throughout the years.

The cloak of invisibility woven by the United States around race in Latin America, did little to help the young girl who got questioned constantly as to why she didn’t look like the “typical” Cuban — which really meant the White Spaniard Cuban — pale white skin, long silver waves and ocean blue eyes.

The cloak of invisibility did little to protect the middle schooler who would expand the twirls of her curls for hours in hopes of fitting in with the rest of her peers.

The cloak of invisibility did not help the highschool girl who wished nothing more than to find a community that looked like her and began to ignore her ethnicity in order to do so.

The cloak of invisibility did not help the young woman who sought out people that looked and shared experiences like her, but failed to do so.

And, most importantly, the cloak of invisibility did nothing to mend the wounds that had sewed themselves on top of her flesh and prevented her from loving herself fully.

My relationship with race and ethnicity may have been amended had I learned earlier about the groups and experiences — Indigenous and African- that make me who I am today or understood the difference between race and ethnicity at a younger age. Life experiences may have altered had I lived in a country that acknowledged the spectrum of Black identities and experiences, in its entirety. Had I lived elsewhere, I might not have embraced “whiteness” in my childhood to be accepted as a Latina but rather stepped into my lineage, my Blackness.

It would have taught me that despite the United States narrative — that differences don’t exist for those of us who are a part of the “bundle deal” — there are many differences that set us apart.

It would have alerted me that despite my desire to be accepted by the African American community and become one of them, their shoes were not mine to fill.

It would have taught me that being Afro — Latina was enough.

Despite being oppressive in nature, they are a few things the cloak of invisibility taught me:

It taught me to manifest my truth in spite of the intentional omission of Black and Indigenous stories when talking about countries in Latin America.

It taught me that power is only given to the cloak when we fail to acknowledge its presence.

It taught me that navigating these tough conversations with one another is essential and vital if we wish to manifest a future different from the one written by those who aren’t us — White Latinos.

And finally, it taught me that sharing our stories and experiences is the most important tool to rip apart the cloak and start the healing process.

Ready to start dismantling the cloak together? Tell us how false narratives have tried to cloak you and the ways in which you’ve dismantled or plan to dismantle it in the future.

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Creative Reaction Lab
Equal Space

At Creative Reaction Lab, we believe that Black and Latinx youth are integral to advancing racial equity and developing interventions for their communities.